A big-money offer is set to see Shontayne Hape quit the New Zealand Warriors and head to the Bradford Bulls. In another development yesterday, Kiwi coach Gary Freeman is looming as a serious candidate for the Wests Tigers coaching job.
Hape's manager Peter Brown expects the two-year deal with the world club champion and the English Super League titleholder will be finalised this week.
"We haven't signed with Bradford yet but we have almost agreed terms," he said.
"We will get a contract through (tomorrow)."
The winger-centre becomes the first of the Warriors' young talent to leave in the era of new coach Daniel Anderson and club chief executive Mick Watson. He said yesterday the Warriors had no hope of matching the Bradford deal.
"They are offering him money I don't think we can come anywhere near," he said.
"It is senior player money. We would say to Shontayne you should take that money.
"It is not a situation where we are trying to talk him around or sell him. He is a good kid and Peter is a good guy and a good player manager. Look, it is a top four club in England, so go for it and no hard feelings."
Hape, 21, has been regarded as one of the real junior talents to enter the club's ranks and he looked set to deliver on that promise this season.
However, his season ended in the Warriors' opening game when he suffered a serious knee injury.
The Warriors were delaying offering a new contract until they saw how his rehabilitation was progressing whereas the Bulls offered security.
Brown said Hape would have stayed if he had been offered a reasonable, two-year deal.
"Shontayne is happy with the offer," he said.
"When you balance everything up, he is coming off injury and Bradford are giving him a two-year deal which is worth a fair bit of money.
"His recovery (from surgery) is well under way and he will be right by September. He will go over in October and November and start training. It will work out pretty well for him."
The Bulls - who have a strong Kiwi contingent with Robbie Paul, Joe Vagana, Lesley Vainikolo and Tevita Vaikona already at the club - will use Hape in the centres.Like